Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kindle, five years

Happy fifth birthday, Kindle!

The first Kindle was much criticised for being ugly, for the odd keyboard, and not the least for the very big page buttons on the sides, which were all too easy to hit by mistake.

But most of this was corrected already by the second generation. And it can't be argued that the Kindle and Amazon's aggressive ebook market has been the midwife to the e-book revolution, a market which is already now over one third of the whole book markets in many sectors and is still growing.

From my viewpoint, the dark background of the e-paper screen was a problem, so the new Kindle Paperwhite with frontlight was the one which really made the Kindle come into its own for me. I use my iPads, both sizes, for reading of articles, particularly those with links and pictures in them, but for long articles and books, nothing in text form beats the Kindle Paperwhite, I lurv it. It's not perfect, the frontlight can be improved yet more in evenness and such, but for me it's the best device yet for long form reading, including paperbooks.

And the iPad Mini has really filled the hole of a very portable iOS device for ereading. So I think I will nominate 2012 as the year the ereaders broke through!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Photo from iPad Mini are bad in low(ish) light

(I protest, unusually, against Apple spelling Mini with a lowercase M. Really, we need some indication as to which words are proper names.)

This is a photo from my iPad Mini. Two-handed, it's is easy to hold still, thus the picture is sharp despite the slow 1/15 second shutter speed. (And top aperture, 2.4.)

But: notice how grainy and unsharp it is, folks. And this is despite the low ISO setting of 250! Even pocket cameras have delivered better results at ISO 800 for the last few years. In other words: The Mini has a very small camera with a very tiny sensor, meaning it's not good in low light. This of course is the price for the wonderful slimness of the Mini, but you need to take it into consideration if you think that the Mini can replace your pocket camera. It can't, unless it's only for snapshots for the web. (It's just 5 megapixels too.)

Original here (click on Download to get full size.)


Bruce said...
I downloaded the photo and looked at it full size. It's not too bad for grain. Are you sure you are not looking at it oversize on your monitor?

Eolake said...
Well, Blogger scales it down from 5MP to 2MP, that makes the grain and unsharpness much less visible.
But of course few web images are bigger than 2MP. And in better light it'll be better.
Original here. (Click on Download to get full size.)

I was just a little shocked to see image degradation at only ISO 250, to the degree that normally is only seen at maybe 1600.
It's a good camera for the size, but it *is* a very little camera indeed. Just think: it fits in a space a quarter the size of a thimble!

iPad mini: It’s a Productivity Tool, Too

iPad mini: It’s a Productivity Tool, Too, article.

The expert panel were all leaning towards the iPad mini being perfect for consumption, but less so for creation.
Whilst there is no doubt regarding the consumption capabilities, I did find myself disagreeing with the iPad mini not being suitable for creation. After all, this is now my portable device of choice to handle all my writing and podcasting commitments. Of course, there are some minor obstacles that need to be overcome but with a little planning, these obstacles will cease to be relevant.

We are many people who wonder when and to what degree we can have an iPad, or even a Mini, take over from our laptop. This article has some interesting data. Amongst them, and this has surprisingly been my own experience as well, is that more or less all along the way, if you can do it on a regular iPad, you can also do it on a Mini. The author says that even video editing is basically the same experience.
I don't know how Apple did it, the screen is at most one inch bigger than most tablets of the 7-inch class, yet it feels somehow less cramped.

Especially considering how acidly dismissive Steve Jobs was regarding the usability of smaller tablets, I dare say that the Mini is a great positive surprise for many people.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Mini rocks (updated)

All right, just got my iPad Mini! (Took two weeks more than I'd thought, here in the UK.)

Early impression: it rocks!

Some reviewers say that the lack for full Retina resolution is visible, though not a big drawback. Well, to my eyes (and I think that with glasses they are not below average) I have a hard time telling the difference at all. When I hold the two devices next to each other, and make a font much smaller than I'd be reading it anyway, there's a marginal difference, OK. But you have to look for it, to my eyes. The screen is better than the one from iPad 2, clearly crisper, and better colors.

One reviewer mentioned that some buttons got too small to be useful, for example the bookmark buttons in Safari. Again, not to me, I can use them as easily as on a full iPad. (I don't have small hands, they fit my 6.4/194cm frame).

We will see at length how it goes with using it as an ereader in bed, if holding it one-handed is a problem in any way.

But so far, full marks. It's totally useful, and it goes in the side-pocket on my cargo pants (After cell phones and iPods appeared, I've never bought any pants without side pockets), and I barely notice I carry it.

To me, the iPhone (and iPod Touch) has always been a huge compromise for web surfing and reading. Barely useable at all. But the iPad Mini, now that is an outstanding mobile device!


Yes, it's really a pleasure to use, it just is. It is like one gets 98% of the full iPad in a package of half the size and weight. Kewl.
(Of course there are still many uses for the full iPad, especially less mobile use. And I still want an 15-inch "iPad Super" at some point, for bigger applications, art books, comics, etc.)

I opted for the longer procedure of setting it up as a new iPad, instead of just filling it with all I have on my iPad 3, even though I've been careful to weed out the junk on that one as time went on, because I won't be needing all the same apps and such. But it also meant I had to select all the apps to install in iTunes on my Mac, and then arrange them in folders on the iPad like I prefer.

I found some of my old (and newer) photos to import to the Mini, for wallpapers. Man, photos look great on it! Maybe even a tad better than on the iPad 3! I think it has just slightly blacker blacks.

I wish you could get the iPad in grey. White is overwhelming for the picture on the screen, and black is "underwhelming", and can make the shadows of photos look weak. For exhibitions, I always went with grey frames, both for photos and paintings.

One of my night photos (taken with the Sony RX100 pocket camera*) as wallpaper on the Mini. (I liked that the sky gives a clear space for the few icons I like to have "in the wild".)

*The Sony RX100 is a sort of great fit with the Mini, because with that camera also, it's like one gets 98% of the quality and functionality of a full sized camera, but in a package which slips into a breast-pocket!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Out of Touch: E-reading isn’t reading.

Out of Touch: E-reading isn’t reading, article.
Nothing is more suspect today than the book’s continued identity of being “at hand.” The spines, gatherings, threads, boards, and folds that once gave a book its shapeliness, that fit it to our hands, are being supplanted by the increasingly fine strata of new reading devices, integrated into vast woven systems of connection. If books are essentially vertebral, contributing to our sense of human uniqueness that depends upon bodily uprightness, digital texts are more like invertebrates, subject to the laws of horizontal gene transfer and nonlocal regeneration. Like jellyfish or hydra polyps, they always elude our grasp in some fundamental sense. 

That's the danger of academia: getting the ability to write in long and flowery terms about stuff you don't have a clue about.

More poetry:
“Instead of pressing to turn the page, we now swipe…The more my body does, however, the less my mind does. 

But the body has to do more work turning the page of a physical book than the mere tap on an ebook. So now you're actually counter-arguing yourself, dear author.

Update: here's a new article which makes well fun of the aforementioned article.

Braille ereaders?

I got interested in the idea of a "Braille e-reader", in other words a Braille reader which does not print on paper, but instead have a "screen" with little pins popping up (barely) on the surface to make the braille letters. You would just feed in an electronic text, the first page would show, the blind person reads it, presses a button, and the next page turns up.
It should not be too hard to make, methinks. But all I've seen is machines printing on paper. Does this "ereader" exist, anybody knows?

... Further googling:
Engadget hopes it's not far away.
The displays exists, of a sort, but: "Because of the complexity of producing a reliable display that will cope with daily wear and tear, these displays are expensive. Usually, only 40 or 80 braille cells are displayed."

Another thing of course is that now we have text-to-speech, and the latest iteration in the Kindle Fire HD is actually really good, I read whole books with it.

This is a mock-up, not real.